Women in Construction –

Evelyn Shaprio; EST of the Northwest Carpenters Union

EST Evelyn Shapiro will be speaking at the 2021 Oregon Tradeswomen Leadership Institute. Register HERE to reserve your spot at this annual event dedicated to lifting up women in the trades. 

Are there any skills you’re proud of that you developed after joining the carpenters union?
Being a carpenter helped me think of life as something that can be examined and learned and achieved. It helped me develop confidence and awareness to take things on that I never would have had otherwise. It helped me not only handle mechanical and construction-related issues, but it also helped me grow as a person. It helped me grow self-respect and confidence and grow my belief in what I can do in the world. 

How do you hope job sites will change in the next decade?
For our job sites to thrive, our job sites need to look like our communities. We have an industry that is full of amazing craftspeople of every level from a variety of backgrounds.

When I was an instructor at the International Training Center, I always asked my students: “How many of you are proud of yourself for being here–of surviving when it got tough or when you were treated poorly? Are you proud of surviving the jerkiest journeymen you ever had? Or proud of surviving discrimination on your job site?” Inevitably, the whole class would raise their hand. And I would agree, they should be proud of that accomplishment.

But then I would ask them, “What do you think our industry would look like if we didn’t lose people to those very things we’re proud of surviving? Would we have more members, more contractors, or even stronger market share if we were a part of creating an industry that didn’t require quite as much grit?”

Is that grit, that toughness, the most important thing in our industry? Is it something we’re willing to give up for our survival as a union? Our industry is innovative by nature–in order to keep that going, we need to ensure we are encouraging new faces and new voices at all levels.

Kristi Cole – Lead Representative South Puget Sound and Olympic Peninsula, Washington

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Being able to work with apprentices, especially sister apprentices. I like helping them realize that they’ve got a lot of resources to be successful and help them navigate their personal challenges. I’ve also been an ear for them to vent to. I like helping to support and empower them to push toward their goals. 

With my role as a rep, I’ve been able to create connections within my community, too. I introduce people to opportunities or to community partners. I get to see the positive change many of our members bring firsthand.

What’s a piece of advice you’d give your other sisters?
I would say, show up at your best every day. Don’t let anything outside of your circle of control get into your wheelhouse. A lot of time, we all get things in our heads from time-to-time that we can’t control. Focus on what you can. Each day is a new start and you can let go of the trouble of yesterday and keep moving forward.

Even if you’re an apprentice looking to journey out, or a journeywoman looking to step into a leadership role, you have to have a clear vision to get there. Stay connected to your allies. Align with the right people so you have support when you hit those rough patches and so you can return the favor when they need help. 

Desi Wright – Oregon & SW Washington Representative

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really like being able to help people. I like being able to help people out finding work or helping them with any issues or questions they have. It’s awesome to see some of the Sisters who come through Oregon Tradeswomen or the apprenticeship who don’t have a lot of experience. It’s rad to see them grow into these confident, badass women in our industry.

A lot of the sisters I’ve worked with have been bartenders or servers, who didn’t have health insurance. You see them progress; buy their first house, take their kids on vacations… You get to see that growth. You help them out a little and you see what a huge difference this career makes in their lives.

How do you think job sites will change in the next decade?
We’re seeing more women moving into foreman and superintendent positions. Currently, our Oregon Sisters make up around 3.32% of our members, but when you look at a delegate meeting or e-boards of locals, or participation in local events, women are heavily overrepresented.

When it comes to putting in the work, women step up. Our Sisters are making a difference by getting involved, running for officer positions, becoming delegates for their regional council, etc. We’re making strides because it matters to us and we see an opportunity for growth and change in our union.

Heather Mayther – Oregon & SW Washington Representative

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I’m a people person–I love working with and for our members. I enjoy that every day is different, too. One day I could work with a contractor to resolve a member issue and the next I could be helping a member work through a personally difficult situation that could affect their mental health. And then there are the days you might be a marriage counselor.

Since joining the union as a General Carpenter, I’ve felt really empowered to help myself and help others; I think it’s translated well into the work I now do as a Representative.

What’s a piece of advice you’d give your other sisters?
A piece of advice I carried with me through my apprenticeship and today: Remember you’re building a career and a name for yourself. 

Set goals, move with a purpose on the job and otherwise, and don’t compare yourself to others; you’re walking your own path.

Did You Know?

UBC started on job sites across the country.

Our founding president, Peter J. McGuire worked tirelessly on the job sites across the country with his fellow Carpenters to organize the union. In 1881, he organized a Chicago convention to form a union. Representatives from 11 cities joined him and they produced a constitution and structure. Learn More


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